I saw a document in our printer saying we’re all being laid off

A reader writes:

Last week I was making a copy in our copy room (open to all employees to use as needed) and with my copy I picked up a print-out listing every employee in my company, their projected end date (it varied from two weeks from now to two months from now), their start date, their salary, and the amount of severance they would be owed. Shocking.

I put it back in the printer and did some busy work for about 20 minutes in there but no one ever came to get it. Also shocking. Eventually i just dropped it in the paper recycling because I felt so weird about leaving it there.

I really want to talk to my manager (I’m a manager, she’s director level) about it. I get the feeling she has no idea (based on the projects we are starting). I also feel so unmotivated and am spending work time looking at other jobs, which I never would have done in the past. What should I do? Can I confide in my boss?

I’d totally talk to my manager if I found something like that on the printer.

If nothing else, I’d want to make someone aware that a document that was clearly intended to be confidential and would be incredibly destabilizing if passed around was left out where anyone could have seen it.

But it’s also reasonable to say, “Hey, I saw this and obviously I’m wondering what’s going on.”

That doesn’t mean you’ll get real answers. As you note, your manager may have no idea about this — and if she did, she’d likely to be under instructions not to discuss it.

But it’s possible you’ll hear something slightly reassuring — like that this was an exercise to assess the organization’s contingency plans in the event of a crisis and not anything that’s actually happening, or who knows what. (I doubt that’s the explanation — it just doesn’t sound like it — but stuff like that does happen. It could even just be, “I don’t think we want to do X, but just to cover our bases, what would that look like if we did?” )

In any case, it’s fine to ask. There are some confidential things where, if you accidentally see them, you’re expected to pretend that you didn’t — like your coworker’s mortgage paperwork, or an email about someone else’s performance issues. But when you see something this explosive and alarming through no fault of your own (it’s not like you were snooping), it’s fine for you to say, “This was left in a public area and I saw it. What’s going on?”

(No matter what you hear though, the job search is a good idea.)

{ 275 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephanie*

    Whoaaaaa. I’m guessing this is why we have to badge into our printer to retrieve our documents. I would definitely go talk to your director…

    1. OrigCassandra*

      Could also be a network-security measure — there are a few rather strange attacks involving pwning a printer and using it to infiltrate the rest of the local network — but you’re not wrong!

    2. bishbah*

      Even with badges or print codes, sometimes the print queue itself gives you away. We have badges at my company, and recently when someone went to print, they saw the filenames of severance documents for a number of people who had not yet been laid off. (“SMITH Severance 08-28-2019.docx” sort of thing.)

      1. PizzaSquared*

        Yes, I have had to learn to be careful with sensitive file names when printing, because the filename shows in the queue (and history!) to everyone, even if you do have to badge to actually print it.

      2. wittyrepartee*

        I work in a high security area with health data. At our printers we don’t see any printing queue that isn’t our own. If the document is coming from our extra high security drive, it’s just labeled “Citrix document”.

    3. Ama*

      I actually wondered if maybe it is someone networked into multiple printers who accidentally printed into the wrong one. A few of our C-level staff have small printers in their office for confidential high-level document printing, but if they need to print a 20 page report that anyone can see they’ll use the main printer.

      1. juliebulie*

        If I print at home while on the VPN, I have to remind myself to change the default printer. I’ve made some embarrassing gaffes because of that.

        (Windows 7 let you have different default printers for different network locations, but Win10 does not!)

      2. Michaela Westen*

        That’s so easy to do! I printed something on the shared printer once and days later, when I’d forgotten I’d used it, printed something intended for my printer and it went to the shared.
        MS needs to make their programs go to the default printer whenever they’re opened.

    4. CMart*

      Still doesn’t prevent people from leaving things behind once printed! I’ve been totally guilty of leaving the originals of a document I’ve scanned in the tray.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Pretty sure my spouse has never taken an original document out of the tray. He runs his business from home. Neither of us print or scan many docs, but when I do, there always seems to be random certificate of insurance from a month ago in there.

  2. Daniel*

    If your employer is in the US and has at least 100 employees, you might want to look at what the WARN Act says. In short, the employer has to give 60 days notice before doing mass layoffs, which means 33%+ of the workforce or 500+ employees. If they don’t, then the severance has to at least cover what they would have paid between the notice period and 60 days after the layoff.

    There’s more to it than that, but I believe that is the summary.

    1. Longtime Lurker*

      I’m laughing somewhat bitterly at this as I am working at a government contractor reaching the end of the contract and we are getting this notice every 2-4 weeks as they incrementally increase the time before contract end. Last time, the new company that got the contract transferred some previous employees and laid some off, so there’s no way to know who is staying and who will be going.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      I always wonder about that rule. Does it count when layoffs are done in separate rounds? I know when I was laid off years ago, I was given no notice. It was the 6th round of layoffs and the 3rd round in that year, and the total layoffs definitely passed 33% of the company’s workforce. I wonder if they separated them into rounds just to avoid the WARN Act requirements.

      If Alison sees this: Is there a specific waiting period between layoff rounds that companies may abuse to avoid the notice requirements?

      1. Not Me*

        It’s within 30 days if it’s a WARN qualifying event. 90 days if both alone are not WARN qualifying, but together would be. I’m pretty sure there are also geographic requirements, like multiple sites within 50 miles are considered one location, but I’m not positive on the number of miles.

        1. Beatrice*

          Not Me has a more correct answer above – I looked deeper. And the courts frown on structuring layoffs to avoid WARN – in Morton V Vanderbilt University, the university was found to be in violation of WARN after two layoffs conducted 78 days apart would have invoked WARN in combination with each other, and the second set of layoffs included people with “performance” issues referenced in their termination paperwork that appeared to be manipulated to make the terms appear not to be layoffs, to work around invoking WARN.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Oh, then the law firm I used to work for who did this should have been taken to court, lol. They were always timing and structuring layoffs like this to avoid the Act.

    3. Lauren*

      Which is why a lot companies do the 49 employees every 6 months vs. all at once – to avoid having to warn anyone. A friend was like WTF – and I asked when the last 3 were, and sure enough – like clockwork, the dates matched for the 4th round.

      1. JessaB*

        Yeh, I’m pretty sure courts would not like the idea of them end running the statute. There’s a point where continual action ends up becoming an issue because if it’s 49 people over x time every time, that at least to me is prima facie attempt to subvert the WARN act and I’m pretty sure you get some lovely fines when you try to do that.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m fascinated learning about this act, I get the notices from the employment securities division when layoffs are announced but I wasn’t aware of the rules behind it since I don’t deal with companies with enough employees.

    5. Coco2*

      Yeah my husband was laid off from a very large American company and they followed the WARN Act rules even though it didn’t technically qualify. Large companies often will in order to make sure they are on the right side of the law.

      1. Baru Cormorant*

        I think this is evidence of the good side of legislation. Often these rules set the minimum standard of decency, so some companies will spend money and time trying to find loopholes, but some will decide it’s better to spend money and time following them just in case. Then you get a raised standard across the board, even when it doesn’t always apply.

        I think if you’re going to lay off 500 people or a third of your workforce, 2 months notice or equivalence in severance is the least you can do! It’s not like the need to do mass layoffs comes suddenly!

    6. Bratmon*

      Word of warning: The Act has an exception for layoffs caused by “Unforseeable Business Circumstances,” which in practice can mean almost anything. Companies almost never need to actually follow it as long as they can come up with a decent excuse for the layoff.

  3. sam*

    look at it this way – while you should obviously not spread rumors or anything, at least you have a bit of a heads up and can start getting your resume in shape/looking at job listings.

    1. Anonomoose*

      This is what I did when, as a lowly IT tech who had to deal with bounces from our mailing lists, spotted one with the title “advance notice – layoffs” to the exec board list.

      Job search, don’t spread rumors. In a small City or town, your coworkers will be your competition for a bit.

    1. fposte*

      It’s worth reading the linked article above, though, about the manager who told people about layoffs based on just such a document, and who turned out to be wrong.

      1. Clisby*

        Oh, yeah – I wouldn’t immediately go spreading it around. I’d just want to go home and read it a couple of times when I wasn’t looking over my shoulder.

    1. mark132*

      I’m not saying your response is wrong, but for me that’s the last thing I would have done.

      1. Not Katie*

        Yeah No.
        The AAM world is divided into two groups of people:
        a) Those who’ve learned (usually the hard way) that HR is not your friend, mommy, or camp counselor.
        b) Those who haven’t yet learned that lesson.

          1. Buttons*

            What I would do is walk into HR and hand it to a manager and say “found this on the printer!” and walk out. I am not suggesting speak to them about it. It isn’t meant to be seen by people, and they should talk to whoever printed it and left it.

            1. mark132*

              I guess my concern is I would prefer to stay out of the splatter radius. Perhaps it’s a cold blooded calculation, but in this situation what are the upsides vs downsides for me? And playing it out in my head, I don’t see many (any?) upsides, and many downsides. I have a family to feed, and they come first (second and third for that matter).

              1. Fortitude Jones*

                Yeah, I don’t see what that accomplishes either. HR’s going to do what exactly with this printout? Do they even have a way of finding out who printed it and left it on the tray to begin with? It just doesn’t really solve anything, so you might as well just toss it in the trash at that point.

                1. mark132*

                  And I suspect HR would also like to stay out of the splatter radius. Just feed it to the shredder and walk away.

              2. Anonomoose*

                If they’re smart, this would move up the timescale for telling people, and I’m mercenary enough that I like the couple of weeks headstart on my coworkers in job hunting.

            2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

              I know, in “a past life”, someone – an admin assistant – failed to pick up a confidential memo.

              She couldn’t have been too concerned about it, because she skipped out the door at 4 o’clock sharp.

              I locked it in my desk and hand delivered it to her the next morning.

              Basically it didn’t discuss layoffs, but did pertain to the company’s “off budget emergency fund” = translation – the slush fund used for counter-offers.

        1. Jadelyn*

          This attitude is ridiculously unhelpful and results in people not reporting problems that HR can, should, and in many places WILL deal with, just because they don’t think it’ll do any good.

          Like, you know your own employer best, sure, but it’s not f*cking universal, and the edgelord attitude of “there’s people who are jaded like me, and people who aren’t jaded yet but definitely will be” is the opposite of helpful.

          1. Devil Fish*

            Hard agree with this. Good HR is there to protect the company from legal liability but employees are part of the company so it makes no sense to treat HR like the enemy of employees.

            I think most of us have worked at companies that have incompetent, ignorant, malicious or otherwise shitty HR but deciding the whole department will always be out to get you based on that experience would be like saying “I had a really bad manager when I worked at Taco Bell so I’ll never make the mistake of trusting another manager again, since they’re basically scum,” and most people can hear how unhinged that sounds.

          2. Caaan Do!*

            “there’s people who are jaded like me, and people who aren’t jaded yet but definitely will be” is the opposite of helpful.

            THANK YOU!

            I am so sick of people getting the knives out for HR, even from this normally mostly empathetic comment section. This is a blog for work problems so of course there is going to be a disproportionate amount of bad to terrible HR f*uckery shown here. We’re not all out to get you, nor are we all corporate robots who don’t care at all about people’s wellbeing at work.

            1. Buttons*

              Thank you. I understand there are a lot of bad HR departments and people, but in my experience, that is usually because the company doesn’t value HR and they appoint someone as HR who has no actual knowledge or experience in HR or the company doesn’t provide the resources HR needs to be effective.

          3. Not Katie*

            Y’all are overreacting. There’s no talk of enemies, scum, edgelords, (what even is that?) or knives here. It’s just a simple fact that they don’t exist in order to solve anyone’s personal problems, emotional difficulties, “what should I do with this piece of paper I found?” situations, or anything else not related to say, discrimination, hiring practices, benefits discussions, etc. They’re not there for tattling every time someone else does something you don’t like. There’s literally no benefit to anyone for “reporting” they found something someone printed out, but conversely, the potential for blowback on the reporter *does* exist. Self-preservation – which in this case is start job hunting, immediately – is #1.

            1. thestik*

              I think the perception of an edgelord-like tone stems from the black and white presentation of how commenters perceive HR. It’s a tad nihilistic, but the more pertinent edgelord trait of it is how it comes across as apathetic almost to the point of performance (a tactic edgelord embrace).

    1. fposte*

      Plan for it, anyway. But, as Alison notes, it’s possible that these aren’t actually impending layoffs, and the severance may be worth sticking around for even if they are.

      1. valentine*

        Your #1 priority absolutely must be GTFO.
        No. Remember the letter where the manager Chicken Littled her team until several left for lower-paying jobs and were replaced, and the document to turned out to be a contingency plan?

      2. JustMyImagination*

        It depends on the job market whether they should stick around for severance. I worked with a married couple, we were all laid off but given two months notice. At the end of the two months, they were offered a substantial bonus to stick around for 3 more months. She opted out and got a new job. He opted to stay for the bonus. In those 3 months the job market soured and they ate through his bonus and then some before he got a new job.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, you absolutely want to consider the situation and the tradeoffs. But you don’t want to leap in panic for anything job-shaped the next day, either.

        2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          “Rats that jump off of a sinking ship and find higher ground have a strong chance of survival. Those that stay aboard to willingly go down with the ship will almost certainly drown.”

          Anon-2 Sr. (1921-2017)

          In a 42+ year IS/IT career I never forgot this.

      3. A Poster Has No Name*

        Agreed. It totally depends on various factors, including what the LW’s severance is likely to be and how long it’s likely to take her to find a job. Putting out feelers, polishing up the resume, check and see what’s interesting out there, updating LinkedIn, all good. Worst case, you’re better prepared for a layoff. Best case, you find something better than your current gig without trying too hard.

  4. Observer*

    I almost feel like sharing this just to get people to start being more careful about what they leave in the shared copiers / printers / faxes.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Seriously. Oh the things I have seen that I really, really should have never seen

  5. juliebulie*

    I could have sworn I read a letter like this here a couple of years ago. Did I imagine it?

    My inner evil twin would tell you to make copies and leave one on each person’s desk. But my inner evil twin thinks we live in a movie.

    It could very well be a what-if exercise, as Alison suggested. Or, it could be a mean joke or even a trap, left there for someone to discover, to see how they would react. (My employer sometimes sends fake phishing emails to make sure we don’t open phishing emails.) Or, it could be just what it looks like.

    Tell your boss for sure. And… keep us posted? Because no matter what the explanation is, it really sucks.

    1. Clisby*

      You might be thinking of the letter linked to after this one – the one where a manager told people she had seen information that layoffs were coming, so they all started getting new jobs, and it turned out it wasn’t true?

        1. juliebulie*

          Both of those (the 2015 and the 2017) look familiar. I guess this isn’t as rare an occurrence as it should be…

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Those excercises are normal, but they’re done via email to avoid this kind of scenario

    3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      My method of dealing with layoff info –

      – trash the memo. Or better yet, smuggle it out of the building. Two good things come of this =

      a) you know what’s gonna happen, but your management doesn’t know that you know that… advantage to you…
      b) if someone printed that and is looking for the copy and can’t find it, he/she is gonna have a sleepless night hoping someone else didn’t find it!

      – start looking. When you DO find another job , and resign, and they ask why , then tell them you saw this memo on the printer, etc. etc. see what they say, do, or how they squirm.

  6. Mike C.*

    You really need to tell your coworkers what you found. It’s unconscionable that your workplace would plan on laying everyone off with no notice anywhere from two-eight weeks out. If your workplace has 100 or more employees, they also fall under the WARN act, which requires a MINIMUM of 60 days notice.

    I don’t really care if this is “private” info or not, the damage done to employees being suddenly fired without any reasonable warning is much, much higher than the inconvenience of the employer for having prized folks leave early.

    Get on that job search, get more information and be frank with your colleagues. You have no idea what’s going on in their lives and not having that information could be an absolute disaster.

    1. valentine*

      You really need to tell your coworkers what you found.
      But it could be nothing. Do you think the manager in the linked letter above did the right thing?

      1. Mike C.*

        A piece of paper is not nothing. I literally said, “tell them what you found”, not “tell them that they’re all losing their jobs”.

        The difference between the two is that the former builds in that slight chance that nothing is going to happen and takes into account that nothing has been announced. The latter does not.

    2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      It would be advantageous to OP’s job search to be on the market before the flood of competition of her laid off peers, if OP wants to be cutthroat.

      1. Mike C.*

        Oh, at the expense of potential financial ruin of some of her colleagues? That’s incredibly gross.

        1. A*

          Understood that it’s not ethically ideal – but “incredibly gross” is pretty extreme. You can’t speak to everyone’s circumstances, and there are times where ethics might need to be sacrificed for survival. I assume this is the minority, but there was a time in my life when I was so close to homelessness (right out of college, zero safety net, financial orphan etc.) that if this had happened to me I would have job hunted first. I was half a paycheck away from financial destitution and work in a specialized field that would have been flooded by my coworkers. I’m glad I’ve never been in this situation, and would definitely want to tell my coworkers if this happened to me now – but I would never make a blanket statement like that.

          1. Baru Cormorant*

            I think it’s not just “ethically ideal” but pretty frigging gross. This isn’t stealing bread from a noble to feed your family. This is withholding information for the express purpose of screwing over your colleagues so they can’t possibly compete with you. It’s like saying you know of a homeless shelter but you don’t tell other homeless people so you’re not competing for space, or buying up all the bread in the store before a storm so nobody else can.

            I’m not going to tell anyone how to be poor or how to survive, but let’s not pretend that behavior is OK just because it’s necessary.

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              You’re not buying all the bread, you’re getting to look for the best loaf before anyone else goes to the store. That suggestion is not allowing someone to take multiple jobs away from others; they’re just getting their resume out there ahead of one small group of people (never mind all the other job-seekers in the area who are in competition and already applying).

              1. Mike C.*

                Stop trying to justify unethical behavior.

                If we take your metaphor any further, this action would prevent people from knowing that they need to buy bread and by the time they know that bread could be rotten or otherwise not available for sale.

            2. A*

              Agree to disagree! Again, I tell my coworkers, but that’s because I’m privileged enough to be able to afford to be struggling in an over saturated market. I am not comfortable putting the entire moral obligation of this situation (caused by the employer, because yes I agree what they are doing is gross) on the shoulders of the person who found the paper. I don’t know their circumstances, and if they need a leg up on the job hunt to keep themselves off the street – it’s not my place to judge. If they were the one making the decision, then yes. I do however, respect the opinion of those who disagree with me.

        2. Anonomoose*

          Ech, it’s ethically hard to encourage others to act on this information, as it might be nothing. However, personally you can job search for no reason at all, so keeping quiet, not causing a panic, but doing your own job hunt seems fine to me

          1. A*

            Apparently it is incredibly gross, and it is not acceptable to have a different opinion without that highlighting a serious flaw in your moral compass. Le sigh.

        3. BananaPants*

          It’s not the most ethical solution, but in many situations one’s coworkers would be direct competition in a job hunt. Getting out ahead of it would give me the best possible chance of avoiding the “potential financial ruin” of my own family, and I make no apologies for feeling that way.

      2. Not Katie*

        It’s where I went too. Depending on how many people work here and how big this town is, the increase in people looking for jobs could be huge. Better to get ahead.

      3. Meredith*

        It’s pretty likely that not all of OP’s coworkers would be going after the same positions in the job market.

        Anyway, I once worked for a company of about 50 employees that laid off 50% of the workforce. Word spread around about a week before it happened. There was nothing any of us could do except polish off the resume and submit to a few jobs if we chose. To quote Tom Petty, the waiting really is the hardest part. (Well, that and seeing the constant revolving door in and out of HR the day it happened.) Knowledge is power, but heavy is the head who wears the crown.

    3. NW Mossy*

      I can’t support this advice. There are so many ways that sharing this kind of information with colleagues could blow up in the OP’s face, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask her to fall on that grenade, even with the very generous assumption that this knowledge is pure upside for them. She could easily get herself fired, lose severance, torch her reference, and/or damage her professional reputation by disseminating information like this, and that’s without even considering whether or not the info is true.

      Also, it seems like this advice is predicated on a belief that the leadership of this company is engaging in a deliberate act of malice towards its employees by considering layoffs confidentially. That might be the case, but the OP didn’t include anything in her letter that supports that conclusion, and I don’t think malicious layoff strategy is common enough that we can assume it’s true here without other evidence.

      1. Mike C.*

        No, it’s time that people stop being so unreasonably risk adverse that they aid in screwing over their colleagues, and it’s time that folks stop acting like doing the right thing is such a terrible choice. “Oh, I knew you were buying a house or that your spouse quit their job to go back to school but I felt it would violate our great Protestant Work Ethic to let you know of the significant possibility that you might need to make drastic financial changes”.

        And seriously, “damage her professional reputation”? Are you serious? Would you actually look down on a manager that got wind that everyone was getting fired, she investigated further and then told folks so that they could have more than just two weeks from losing their livelihood? Or would you realize that this was an extreme situation of an entire workplace being fired on short notice and that there are more important things than textbook decorum?

        I’ve already lived through the greatest recession in a generation, the almost total lack of recovery for normal folks and the signs of another one coming up. Lots of money just got spend on back to school stuff and the major gift-giving holidays are coming up shortly.

        The layoff strategy is malicious because they’re planning on starting in two weeks. That it comes as a complete surprise to the OP is another mark against them. If you’re upset that I’m suggesting she not do anymore research then I can give you that, but this isn’t something that should be kept to herself.

        1. A*

          It sounds to me like you are putting the weight of this potentially terrible situation on the shoulders of the person who discovered the print out. I don’t believe that is fair. I know what I would do in this situation, but I don’t fault others for not being willing to martyr themselves (or being financially unable to make that risk). I’m happy for you (and me!) that you are in a situation where you would be able to take that risk, but not everyone can.

        2. Former Employee*

          1. It’s risk averse, not adverse.

          2. As several people have pointed out, it was a supervisor who told people in another situation that they were being laid off based on something she saw (that she shouldn’t have seen) and felt obligated to share. It turned out to be some sort of exercise/contingency planning that management was doing in the event of a catastrophic occurrence. A number of people left for lower paying jobs because that’s all that was available and they didn’t want to risk being without a paycheck.

          3. Based on this, I would recommend that the OP talk to their manager and look for another job, especially if their manager can’t explain why what they saw was nothing to worry about.

          1. Mike C.*

            1. Who gives a sh!t? Was that really relevant? Did you write that to make yourself seem smart or what?

            2. Literally a single data point in a sea of businesses closing.

            3. And what of everyone else?

            1. A*

              Honestly, that is really rude and unnecessary. I get that you disagree – but there’s no need to swear at a commenter & condescend/patronize. Especially when you’re arguing about moral compasses….

              Truly, take a deep breath. No one deserves to be commented at like that, you included.

        3. NW Mossy*

          Yes, I am serious about professional reputation here, and I would absolutely have serious reservations about hiring someone to manage people who did this, no matter how well-intentioned. It breaks trust about their ability to handle confidential information with discretion (especially when it’s a hard message that the company wants to send in a thoughtful way), and it points to someone who’s spreading info way out ahead of their understanding of the facts. It speaks to a person who feels so strongly about their own judgment that they’ll take action on it without considering that there might be good reasons for keeping quiet, and that’s not necessarily a positive.

          And for the record, I lived through that recession too. I worked for a company during its death throes where coming in each day was a game of “will the doors even open?” chaos, whipsawing from one hail-Mary attempt to save it to another on a daily basis. The fact that you and I disagree on this point is not because I’m insufficiently informed about what sudden jeopardy to employees’ jobs means to them. Been there, got sparked to take the most toxic job of my life out of panic about the loss of income, and spent way too long shaking off the damage that did to my career and my well-being. 0/5 would not recommend.

          1. Observer*

            Mostly, I agree with you. The key here, though, is that the original breach was NOT the OP’s – they were not given this information as part of their job or anything like this, on the one hand. On the other hand, they didn’t go snooping where they had no business being. The information was left out for all and sundry to see.

            That does change a lot.

              1. Mike C.*

                Why not? Everyone else is very likely going to be losing their jobs. Why isn’t that something that they should have the right to know?

          2. Mike C.*

            This sort of moral absolutism that favors decorum over actual people who are very shortly and very likely going to suffer real harm is incredibly disgusting.

            1. Anonomoose*

              I actually do think this is a textbook ethics question, which is why we’re getting so heated about it. There’s a different answer depending on the framework you start with.

              In my case, I’m pretty focussed on consequences. There’s two issues here, for me:

              1) How helpful is this information? I actually think it’s pretty useless, unless it lists literally the entire company. These things go through several rounds of wrangling, normally, where who is being laid off shifts dramatically. So without being sure of the context, you’re left with a general sense the company is in trouble, which is a lot less useful.

              2) what are the harms? Well, how are you going to distribute it? Pinning it to a noticeboard will cause chaos, and be somewhat humiliating to those listed, who may have already been informed, and want to control how it gets out. Telling people individually is an option, but identifies you strongly as the source of this information. If the list changes, and it might, you’ll be rightly blamed by all the people who made desisions on this information.

              And, if you’re wrong, and this whole thing blows up, and the list turns out to be a plan if x unlikely event happens, the company will have a solid try at firing you.

              I’ll admit this is different in the UK, where longer severances, no health insurance, etc make it somewhat less life and death. I’m not sure what my answer would be under the american system

          3. rainbow*

            Mossy, I’m really shocked by this. It’s incredibly unfortunate that you’d view this as a negative. I don’t think I’d like to work for a place that treats people like you do so maybe it’d be for the best.

        4. EvilQueenRegina*

          The key point in that comment is “she investigated further”. I’d think better of a manager who actually did investigate first than someone like that manager in the other post who didn’t investigate at all before sharing the information with staff.

        5. DreamingInPurple*

          Your last sentence is where I come in on it – I do think it would be beyond crappy not to share this info if it turns out to be legitimate, but it’s also risky (and I personally think too risky) to share without having any confirmation or any further info because of the risk it would pose to peoples’ careers if it isn’t true. Even something like asking a manager about it and getting no response or a brush-off would be informative, because the choice of what’s addressed vs unsaid in that conversation could provide some guidance. If I was the LW, I’d be looking for a new position regardless but I’d certainly take different steps if I asked my manager about it and got “that’s an exercise the company does because of XYZ” (investigate XYZ to see if reasons track up before spreading any info) versus a disingenuous-seeming explanation (tell people now) versus “Uh. I don’t know anything about that so let me investigate and get back to you” (give manager a day or two to investigate before spreading info).

    4. RussianInTexas*

      Yes and no. WARN Act has many loopholes and workarounds. Like:
      If a plant closing or a mass layoff results in fewer than 50 workers losing their jobs at a single employment site;
      If 50 to 499 workers lose their jobs and that number is less than 33 percent of the employer’s total, active workforce at a single employment site;
      Also: Faltering company: When, before a plant closing, a company is actively seeking capital or business and reasonably, in good faith, believes that advance notice would preclude its ability to obtain such capital or business, and this new capital or business would allow the employer to avoid or postpone the shutdown for a reasonable period;
      Unforeseeable business circumstances: When the closing or mass layoff is caused by business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable at the time that the 60-day notice would have been required (i.e., a business circumstance caused by some sudden, dramatic, and unexpected action(s) or condition(s) beyond the employer’s control, such as a major order’s unexpected cancellation);
      Also, I believe we are talking about layoffs as in “fired” sense, no “subject to recall”, correct? I’ve been laid off twice, in each case there was literally no warning, you are called in for a meeting with HR and off you go. My partner’s Fortune 500 company was going through mass layoffs during the oil crash, and they laid off 10,000 people in a span of 2 months. No warning for anyone. All fully legal.

      1. Spek*

        Some industries post a WARN act notice 60 days before the end of every project or contract to keep themselves covered, regardless if they are planning layoffs, or if they have another project lined up.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The WARN Act requires 60 days notice or severance of an equivalent amount. So they can do less notice if they pay the right amount of severance.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Alison, in my experience in a large publicly traded business in Texas layoff (as in completely termination of employment) always been instantaneous, no warning, and the severance pay was based strictly on your years of service – two weeks pay (basically one paycheck) for every year worked, with limit at 26 weeks. They were really generous in keeping my medical insurance at the employee premiums for 6 months, but that’s an outlier from what I hear.
        I was laid off twice from the same company (yay me!), and in the first instance the whole group was let go. No warning for anyone, and since I only been there for 8 month, I got only 2 weeks pay.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s a pretty typical way to do it unless the WARN Act is triggered by the size of the layoff. If WARN was in play, then that would be illegal.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            I see that one of the loopholes is the “we are raising money”. Would be a forecast of stocks crashing if the layoff becomes public be a way out for a company to avoid the compliance with the WARN Act?

      2. KRM*

        Most of my company was laid off in January, and we got two weeks notice to be still in the office. Then we were all officially ‘laid off’, but to comply with WARN we were all paid normally for the next six weeks. There was an additional severance payout as well (it was all very generous, TBH), and I think easier to comply with WARN by having us not in the office but paid as if we were (there wasn’t anything for us to work on since they shut research down, so it made sense).

        1. Not Me*

          Whenever I’ve been involved in a WARN event we gave them a non-working notice. It’s expensive but better for all involved.

    6. BethRA*

      Having people act on that information if it turns out not to be true could be a disaster as well (it’s been posted a few other time here but just in case: https://www.askamanager.org/2015/12/i-distributed-layoff-plans-without-permission-new-job-says-i-cant-take-a-previously-okayed-trip-and-more.html)

      If it is only a mental exercise, or a worst-case-scenario, you might be pushing people to leave jobs they need and might not actually lose.

      And if OP DOES get laid off, burning bridges with their current bosses may not be the best move.

      I certainly wouldn’t blame someone for sharing this info, but there are very good reasons not to.

    7. CommanderBanana*

      This could so wrong, though. Remember the manager that told her staff they were all getting laid off, and several quit and took other jobs or made other major life changes – and she was wrong?

      The papers ended up being a generic company contingency plan and the manager in question didn’t ask anyone higher up before telling her team, with pretty disastrous results.

    8. Beth*

      OP, if you mention this to your coworkers (which I’m not as convinced as Mike C. that you should do, for the record), please make sure to give the full context of what you found and what it said. My concern isn’t for whether this is ‘private’; my concern is that it’s effectively the written form of hearsay. You have no way to confirm if it’s even the real plan vs. a contingency plan or planning exercise, much less to foresee if it’s going to go down as written. It’s true that if this is accurate, it could be a disaster for some of your coworkers; however, if it’s a false flag, then rushing to act on it could also put people in bad situations. If you choose to share at all, make sure to pass on a grain of salt as well and be clear about what you don’t know.

    9. Public Sector Manager*

      I cant’ support this advice because the OP is a manager.

      When a manager finds sensitive company information on a printer, whether it’s good or bad, telling other managers and subordinates about it is a recipe for disaster and will likely get the OP fired.

      Managers are part of the management team. The OP can take the print out to the OP’s manager, or even a C-Suite and say, “I found this on the copier.” And if the OP wants to ask questions about it, it’s in that context. But telling everyone within earshot about it, even if true? Yeah, that’s a recipe for everyone else being laid off but OP be walked out.

      The rules change when you accept that promotion.

        1. DreamingInPurple*

          Ethics don’t change, but your responsibility not to give potentially life-changing false information is higher when you’re talking about direct reports (who see you as an authority figure or at least better informed than they are) than about peers. I’d agree with you in cases where there is more evidence to support this information being real, but I consider that evidence necessary to make it worth the sh*tstorm it’s bound to touch off.

        2. Anonomoose*

          Mike C., I am a huge fan of your rabble rousing. I disagree here, but generally agree that we need to take less rubbish from our employeers.

          I do think manager changes it too, as people will attach more weight to the info than if Gregory the office gossip spreads it.

    10. Alice Frank*

      Finding a document left on a printer is not proof that the employees will actually be laid off. There could be a number of reasons why this information was laid out in a document, and telling other co-workers about it would unnecessarily get people upset over nothing, and could jeopardize the OP’s job.

      A few years ago, our non-profit was working through a financial issue with one of our program areas. We created a 2-year recovery plan that included a reduction of staff, but only through attrition – no lay-offs. The plan was documented, but only in summary format, that said “reduction of staff by 4 FTE. This document also talked about the scope of the financial issues. On the morning of a Board meeting, we had a stack of papers for each board member, laid out on the table, and this document was on top. Prior to the meeting, a staff member walked in and saw the document, made copies, then took it to the break room, showed it everyone there, and left several copies.

      We immediately got phone calls from sobbing employees who believed they were about to be laid off, and volunteers and staff were up in arms. Because we had no intention of laying people off, and in fact, there had already been a reduction of 3 FTE through attrition in the past few months, we were totally blindsided. It took up a tremendous amount of management’s time and energy to diffuse this totally avoidable situation, all because one employee took it upon himself to incorrectly interpret a document that was not intended for general distribution.

      We fired that employee immediately – had he come to a manager and asked questions first, the entire thing could have been avoided, and he would still have a job.

  7. nona*

    Am I having deja vu? Wasn’t there a previous letter like this? Maybe where the manager saw something on the printer, told her employees, but it turned out that the manager didn’t have the whole story/lay offs didn’t happen?

  8. Bee Eye Ill*

    I would have gotten a thumbtack or piece of tape and posted it up on the wall for all to see.

    1. Free Meerkats*

      Make lots of copies and shred the original that has your fingerprints on it. Then wearing gloves, post it everywhere; or even drop one in each person’s mailbox. There’s no upside to being known for spreading the information and a significant downside for everyone on the list if they don’t know it’s a possibility.

  9. Marthooh*

    For a cautionary tale, read the first post listed under “You may also like” (My manager told us we were going to be laid off…) That one still gives me the shivers.

    1. I Work With Dudes*

      I think about that one sometimes and feel sick for those people. It is always important to keep in mind that sometimes things don’t come to pass. There were rumors at my company in May that we were going to experience mass layoffs this summer. However, a combination of people leaving on their own accord and picking up a large contract has resulted in no layoffs. While I definitely polished my resume when I heard the rumors, now I feel safer than ever in my position.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Yeah, there was a forecast for an industry downturn 3 years ago that my company was planning for. Competitors left the business and we ended up with more share of a steady market as the downturn forecast was pushed out a few years, and we also (successfully) intensified efforts to diversify, so we have ended up growing instead of shrinking.

        My mother also sounded the alarm every 5-10 years that she was getting laid off because her company was bought and sold multiple times. Instead, she’s now been there 32 years and is retiring in October.

        Don’t panic. Plan, but don’t make decisions until you need to.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        “people leaving on their own accord” — then the rumor has achieved its aim presumably… to get people to leave voluntarily without even having to pay severance” :s

  10. kwagner*

    Didn’t something the other way around happen in another letter a while back? A letter-writer’s manager saw a sheet of paper that announced lay offs in the future, that manager told their whole team who all quit and took worse jobs, only to find out that not only were no layoffs happening, they weren’t even planned?? Yes OP please bring this to a higher-up’s attention and get as solid of an answer as possible before sharing this info laterally or making any irreversible decisions.

  11. GreenDoor*

    I guess I’d need a bit more guidance here. BEing that OP is a manager, how do they balance the expectation of management to keep confidential information confidential vs. the weight of direct reports who will look to the OP for answers and probably be upset to find OP knew ahead of time and said nothing.

    I mean, I’d respect the need for confidentiality because, as Alison hinted at, this could only be a projection or a draft plan and things could go a totally different way…..yet I’d feel like crap not giving good people a heads up that their ability to put food on the table could soon change.

    1. valentine*

      I’d feel like crap not giving good people a heads up
      It’s just a hit you have to take if you want to be trusted with confidential information. What you can do is help them now by ensuring they’re paid well enough a layoff isn’t a catastrophe.

  12. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    FML, this sounds like someone sent it to the wrong printer! Then they were like “Oop must not have printed it after all *reprints to right printer*”

    I would absolutely go with the “Hey boss, I found this and I know it shouldn’t be floating around…anything that you can share with me about what’s going on?” [Sure they may not be able to share with you but given the circumstances, they may share more than they usually would, since they know you’re now full of information you weren’t supposed to know about.]

    What an awful situation to be put into. I don’t blame you for being unmotivated and for looking for jobs.

    1. Jadelyn*

      I’m pretty sure every single person on my team (HR) has done that panicked sprint to the main printer after something didn’t print on our private printer, just in case it wasn’t lost in transmission but went to the wrong place. Most of the time it was a tech error – file interrupted on its way over, printer having issues, had to hit “okay” one more time to make it actually start, etc – but all it takes is once to cause all kinds of issues…

  13. Jennifer*

    I wonder if that was someone’s unfunny idea of a prank? It just seems so weird that someone would print that at a public printer, then leave it there. If it was seen on someone’s desk or something it might make more sense.

    I’d still say something to the manager about it.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I thought about that, too. . .what if some immature, malicious employee made it up to see if the rumor would spread? Or used real names/fake data for an HR management course project, or whatever weird scenario? That’s why I’d keep it to myself.

      On the printing issue, if I’m on VPN from anywhere, I can still print to the building printer. Then there is no way to go retrieve it. I once had a trusted coworker text me from home once to go retrieve a job listing that he had accidentally printed to work instead of his home printer, but not everyone immediately figures out what they did and may just wonder why it isn’t printing to Printer X.

    2. MillenialAnon*

      At my job, it is not unheard of for the default printer for a given computer to be set to the wrong printer on the network. We recently got all upgraded computers, and one computer was printing to a location several towns over.

      1. Jennifer*

        If I’d printed something like that to the wrong printer, I’d be running all over looking for it.

        1. Mazarin*

          I have had something like that happen. Print to the wrong printer. Go to correct printer to get it- printer out of paper. Print again. Find on wrong printer later…. (Really sensitive stuff I actually wait till after hours to print, as all our printers are public and ithelps with random mistakes like this)

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        My old team had this problem after an office move – the building we had vacated was still being used by another department and they kept those printers, some of my team still had their laptops set with those printers on them and were printing all sorts to the wrong building. It’s easy done.

    3. pamela voorhees*

      One of my mom’s favorite quotes is “never attribute to malice what could be accomplished by stupidity.”

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Seems unlikely given that the OP has said the document included (presumably based on occam’s razor) correct info which a “prankster” wouldn’t have. OP said their own salary was given correctly on the doc.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yeah, and I’ve seen something like this happen before. At my last company, someone printed out all of the Executive’s salaries and left it next to the printer. It showed that the lone black male exec was being significantly underpaid in relation to his peers. So yeah, I think this was real – people aren’t always so careful with these kinds of things.

  14. chipMunkey*

    We needed to do something like this at my workplace – because unionized staff were entitled to retirement severance under their collective agreement until it was negotiated out. Because the existing staff were grandfathered, every year at budget time, I need to plan and predict who may actually retire and what the cost would be. So we update a spreadsheet of all staff names, eligible or not, dates and years of service, and the dollar value of severance. If someone looked at it quickly but didn’t understand the context or why it is being done, it would absolutely be alarming. But for the record, I don’t leave it lying around, and try to include enough detail in the spreadsheet that in the unlikely event someone does stumble across a copy it would be fairly clear why the information was gathered in the first place.

    1. Daniel*

      You know, I was trying to think of a scenario why a sheet like this would exist if OP’s employer WEREN’T planning on canning everyone. I couldn’t think of one–but this would be one.

      OP…any chance something like this would sound familiar? Either way, still ask your higher-ups, but I am curious about this.

      1. Buttons*

        We do a similar exercise yearly in partnership with the Compensation department. We see if offering retirement incentives are worth it.

      2. Anonomoose*

        Another is that they’re planning a much smaller layoff, and that they’re doing the numbers on who the cheapest people to lay off are.

    2. Ama*

      I suspect my org may have something that would look kind of like this to calculate our unpaid PTO liability for our annual financials (we’re a nonproft in a state where PTO payout is required by law, so we have to include this in our financial reporting). Something that charts out if any given employee gives notice as of the last day of the fiscal year how many days do they have and how much payout they’d receive.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Would you fill in that spreadsheet with imminent/hypothetical (and varying within a very specific time period!) end dates though?

      1. juliebulie*

        Actually, maybe, depending on who they are, what they do, and how long it might take to get them to wrap up their work. (Or how much lead time you are willing to give them after the first wave of layoffs!)

      2. MsSolo*

        When we do redundancy liability, I think we use “if the process started on x date” (which is the date we’re meant to pass the calculations on to our funders), so you would see various dates depending on notice periods and terms of service within a short timeframe. I mean, we’d be hugely in the **** if we left a document like this out, because those calculations require a lot of personal info, and if someone found it they’d be expected to report it due to the data breach implications, but it would hopefully also be fairly clear that it was the annual RL exercise, not a sign of impending layoffs.

  15. Construction Safety*

    Many years ago, we had a central printer / fax machine. I picked up my stuff and accidentally, a printout of the entire organization’s salary info. Interesting reading.

    1. mark132*

      I admit, would definitely read. I would have to restrain myself from taking a pic with my phone.

  16. Andréa*

    Something isn’t adding up… Why would anyone print a list of names of the individuals who’re going to be laid off? I could understand if someone accidentally added you on an email. But, a list of names, “accidentally” left on the company used printer… I don’t know about that. Seems very odd.

    1. banzo_bean*

      And the person that printed it never came to pick it up….If I printed a list like that I would be very nervously checking the printer in the 10 minutes after my documents finished printing.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s a pretty normal thing to pull together in a whole bunch of different situations, like actual planned layoffs or the examples I gave in the post. Someone easily could have printed it without thinking, or thought they sent it to a different printer.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      We have various printers and people use the wrong one all the time. Every once in awhile I have things spit out of my desk printer and I’m like “Wut?!” So it can happen innocently.

      However as someone who would be the only one of two people who would have this kind of knowledge, I agree that you would be extra careful to not just leave this laying around.

      My best idea is that if it’s not some crude prank or on purpose, they printed it to take to some kind of meeting with other managers about the layoffs and then it went to the public printer instead of the private printer they had meant to send it to. You’d think people would get used to choosing the right printer or being extra careful but tons of people aren’t extra careful it turns out.

      1. mark132*

        If I printed something like that and couldn’t find it at the printer, I would be panicking.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Right? I would be checking every printer and panicking the entire time. Since I have enough highly confidential things to deal with, people would just assume I didn’t want someone’s social security information or something being laying around so it wouldn’t trigger any “why she anxious over this piece of paper tho?” thoughts.

    4. Samwise*

      BEcause they sent it to the wrong printer. Even in our fairly small office, I can send stuff to my personal printer, to the printer in the hallway, or two printers in the mail room. All are close. I’ve (thought I) sent stuff to my own printer and then can’t figure out why it’s not printing…d’oh, it’s down the hall. I’ve worked at places where I could send my stuff to be printed in a different building…

      1. Antilles*

        Yep. A few other alternatives:
        1.) Some software programs (most notably Adobe Acrobat) remember your settings from the last print job. So if the last thing you printed was 3 copies of a report, then when you go to print the severance list, Acrobat prints three copies and you don’t realize it. You go and grab only the last page off the printer, not realizing that the pages before that were duplicates of your document.
        2.) Printer glitches. If the printer is down when you first try to print, your print job just gets stored in the queue. But then after the printer gets fixed, it doesn’t always kick back to re-read the queue. So your initial print never comes out, you click “print again” and it comes out…then 30 minutes later the printer ‘remembers’ to check the queue and pops out a ton of documents at once.
        3.) You click print and your phone rings right as you’re about to walk to the copy room. So what should have been a “I’ll get there before anybody else and snag it” turns into “…and 20 minutes later…”
        4.) OP says she was in the midst of copying things. I’ve definitely had cases where I’m copying a couple different large stacks of documents. I send the first one to the printer, then while I’m in the process of grabbing the next set of paper to feed into the copier, someone else’s print job clicks through so I’m stuck with something in the middle. In this case, the fact nobody came to grab it is odd, but printers are weird when it comes to “print job goes through in the middle of copying”.

        1. Zephy*

          I have been a victim of “acrobat remembers too much.” I printed 30 copies of a blank form, and then the next thing I went to print the following day also spat out 30 copies. Not my finest moment.

      2. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

        I’m pretty sure I’ve printed stuff in a different state. I don’t know for sure though-it’s not like I can wander over and check. Or even know where printer NY-XYZ123_4 is, except probably in one of our New York locations. Not confidential though.

    5. some dude*

      I have seen so much super sensitive information left in communal printers that it doesn’t surprise me that a list of layoffs was left.

    6. The Other Dawn*

      No, doesn’t seem odd at all. The person probably printed it and then either got sidetracked and forgot, or sent it to the wrong printer. Happens all the time. And it was probably printed as an insert to a package or for a meeting or something.

    7. KatieZee*

      Basically this exact thing happened when my company was preparing for layoffs (though we all knew they were imminent, just not who was being let go). The management team had met and ranked the team from layoff first to layoff last (they were presumably waiting to hear how many positions had to be cut from upper management). This printout was left on a shared printer and seen by at least one person in advance of the layoff date. Never underestimate how careless people can be…

  17. Troutwaxer*

    After a little more thinking, how does the list of projects and layoffs match everything else that’s happening in your company? Is there some reason, known to you, why the company would be downsizing? Has the company been losing money? Is someone at the top going to retire? Has someone been stealing money? Have you recently lost a big customer? Is the company involved with some area of the economy which is shrinking, or is the company facing any similar problem or issue which would cause a need to downsize?

    If so, it makes sense to be concerned by this document and GTFO.

    However, if none of these applies to your company, maybe it was left in your printer by someone with an axe to grind, and you’ve taken the bait. So ask yourself just how that paper corresponds with actual reality, and do whatever is indicated. (If none of what I wrote above applies to the company, you should definitely tell your manager what you saw.)

  18. UghNo*

    Once I found documents saying our dealership was being sold. The owner left the original papers on the copier. Even when confronted management denied it. Then about two weeks later there was a company meeting and shocker, we were told we were being sold LOL

  19. Another HR manager*

    Staff are receiving “spoof” emails that look like they are being sent from HR (they are not). They list employee’s names and fake disciplinary actions being taken against them including termination. The email looks like it is misdirected in error but it is 100% bogus. So – bear in mind that there is some fake news that is fake news.

    1. fposte*

      Wow. Are those a new kind of phishing email or are you getting somebody maliciously causing trouble there?

      1. Another HR manager*

        phishing emails – so the “information” is on an attachment that infects the computer once opened.

        1. Another HR manager*

          Luckily we have trained staff to be suspect – and it is way out of the norms of how we manage HR so staff reported the emails to IT.

          1. HR Stoolie*

            It’s amazing how “smart” some of these spoof emails can look. Just yesterday some in our office received an email from an owner asking help to buy staff gifts and please keep it “confidential”.
            Fortunately it was forwarded to IT very quickly and an alert was sent out.

            1. KatieZee*

              For sure – I recently got one that was a pretty normal looking email, indicating I was overdue on required security training. Since at my job I have to take what feels like 800 security training things a year, it was a pretty believable note until I noticed the external email address domain.

            2. Urdnot Bakara*

              We got one of these last week! Fortunately for us, whoever sent the spoof accidentally sent it only to the IT team who immediately recognized it for what it was, so it didn’t impact anyone.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          A few months ago some of us received an email “here is your bonus information” with a link to an Excel file. I reported it and yes, it was fake and phishing. My company doesn’t usually do bonuses that way.

    2. Drew*

      We got hit with that as well. The thing that should have made it blindingly obvious was that they emailed some public aliases (like careers@mycompany.com) that were clearly not an actual employee’s address. Oh, and the sender was “HR VP @MyCompany” and we don’t have that role at our company. Even at that, I think a couple of people opened the messages in a panic and had to be disinfected.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s a new one!

      I recently got hit by the phishing email that looks like it’s coming from an employee asking to change their banking information and I started shaking that some places may actually fall for that kind of thing.

      Are these “gonna be terminated!” kind of things asking for bitcoin to get off the naughty list or something?! I’m so interested in the payoff on the scammers end. Most aren’t just practical jokes, they’re out there to steal identity or actual money o.O

      1. Observer*

        I recently got hit by the phishing email that looks like it’s coming from an employee asking to change their banking information and I started shaking that some places may actually fall for that kind of thing.

        We got hit by that one. Quickly fixed, but this is the stuff of nightmares for conscientious IT and security folks.

  20. Construction Safety*

    I also found it interesting in the OP: “listing every employee in my company, their projected end date (it varied from two weeks from now to two months from now)”

    I’d think that if every employee was on their way out there would be some kind of indicators??

    1. Another HR manager*

      This. Can you completely hide if a company is going under? And if it is being sold, some staff is usually retained I think.

      1. LJay*

        Some businesses you totally can.

        My dad works in restaurants. Once, he was fired by the owner. Then a couple months later the remaining staff came to go to work one day to find that they were locked out and the place was shut down for good. Nobody but the owner knew, apparently.

        The come to work one day and find a lock on the door thing isn’t too terribly uncommon in the restaurant world, unfortunately. My dad’s situation isn’t the only time I’ve heard of it happening.

        1. Devil Fish*

          This happened to a call center near where I lived like 15 years ago. The site director didn’t even know, she was the one who tried to unlock the doors to open and found out the locks had been changed. It took her an our to get someone on the phone from corporate to explain wtf happened.

          Term letters/disingenuous offers to transfer employment to a different call center 3 states over if they were willing to relocate by the end of the week showed up at people’s houses by certified mail the next day.

          Here’s the punchline: they did this in the middle of November, like a pack of unfeeling ghouls.

      2. Bluesboy*

        I worked in a place once where I came in after the Christmas holidays to open up and found the locks changed and the business shut down.

        We had something like 5 branches in different cities (which meant that lower level employees didn’t mix with employees from other branches), and our branch was actually making money, the issue was with other branches losing money. In my branch, we really had no idea there were any problems.

        So while I agree that in the company as a whole you would expect some indications that the company was going under, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every employee will have visibility of those problems.

  21. FormerFirstTimer*

    Oooooh! This reminds me of the time upper management accidentally cc’d (department admin) me on an email about the how to deal with laying my entire department off. It was a looooong chain prior to my being cc’d and you can bet I read the whole thing. It had all of our names with our departure dates listed too. They must have realized they made an oopsie because the CEO was in our department to make the announcement before I could stand up to start warning people.

  22. GracyLu*

    One of the things my company has been doing recently is sending out fake phishing/scam emails to see how many people fall for it and how many report it to IT. Because of that, my first thought was this is some sort of test – print something confidential (but hopefully with fake salaries) to a widely used printer and see how long it took before someone reported it. Or started spreading rumors/circulating the information. It does seem a bit over the top compared to fake phishing scams where nothing bad can actually happen, but if I’ve learned anything from reading AAM, it’s that some people do things very differently than I’ve ever seen.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Presumably the OP was included on the list (since they said it included “every employee” in their company) so would know whether the printed salary was real or fake. They didn’t say the salary was wrong so I assume their (and by extension, the others’) salary was printed correctly.

    2. juliebulie*

      My company does the same thing (phishing emails), so I had the same thought.

      (What’s funny about that is that the phishing emails were VERY similar to the legit notifications that we get from our anti-spam service.)

    3. LJay*

      But the fake phishing scams are presumably so they can improve processes – their SPAM filtering, employee training, etc – not just to see how many employees are tricked by it. Because outside phishing happens and they need to ensure the company is equipped to handle it.

      I’m not sure what processes they would be looking to improve by putting this false printout out there, nor can I think of an outside the company corollary for it. If it’s just to see which employees report it and which don’t (or even how many report it and how many don’t) that seems seriously uncool to me.

    4. Software Engineer*

      That would be such a stupid thing for an employer to do as a ‘test’— whatever employee happened to find it, maybe one of their most valued stars, is going to start looking to leave thinking they’re on a sinking ship. If they’re not the most discreet you’ll have EVERYBODY trying to leave and even accepting worse jobs and pay cuts to make sure they have something, like what happened in the post where a manager found info like this and told everyone and it wasn’t true (linked in the story)

      That would be so monumentally stupid a test from bosses, I hope nobody is actually that stupid and callous

  23. Goya de la Mancha*

    Maybe it’s just me, but aren’t there just some things that shouldn’t be printed if you share a printer? I mean, I’m assuming that this is just an email per say and not a 30 page document of how the process is going to roll out.

    1. Liz*

      I agree. in my company, they’ve pretty much done away with printers, and replaced them with multi-function copiers that also print, scan and email and fax documents.

      The only exceptions to that are our legal and HR depts; they still have their own dedicated printers and fax machines that no one else uses.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        My company is trying to do this – I assume because it saves them money on printers and maintenance. My boss has had to fight to get me, him and a few others our own printers.
        But as we see here, it’s not a good idea for other reasons! People whose only option is a shared printer have no choice but to risk printing confidential info to them.

    2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      The last place I worked had 1 shared printer/scanner/copier. One time I was standing there copying something related to my work when a corrective action form for a coworker came rolling off the printer into my piles of papers.

      Thankfully for the person printing it, I was authorized to know this information, but it was a close call.

  24. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    I may just be a horrible and nosy person but I would have definitely reviewed that document pretty thoroughly. The primary reason being that level of insight into pay scale structure in a company is pretty much unprecedented and I’d definitely be checking to see if I was being paid less than my male peers. Depending on that information I might be planning my exit strategy already, but also, if my name was on that list knowing my potential end date and severance amount would allow me to plan out the next few months.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      I also was thinking that regardless of layoffs, this would be a great opportunity to get some clear insight into pay structure for everyone.

    2. Anon for this*

      I must be an even more horrible person because I’d be tempted to make a quick copy and then put the original back, just so I could review it more closely later.

    3. Liz*

      Well if you are, then that makes me one as well. I’d be ALL over that for the same reasons. While i wouldn’t share with anyone else, i’d be taking a pretty good look at it!

    4. Daniel*

      This could be worthwhile.

      That said, I would NOT distribute the print-out for the reason mentioned by others–it could just be a regular accounting of what an employee *would* cost if they needed to be paid severance. Something like what chipMunkey mentioned.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        “it could just be a regular accounting of what an employee *would* cost if they needed to be paid severance” – Why would someone suddenly print a document listing all employees with “how much it would cost” just on the never-never?
        I fully agree that it’s worthwhile for the OP to review that document to gain insight about relative salaries and pay scale, though!

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          If they needed to make it a PDF, and forgot to change their settings from Print to Printer to Print to PDF. I do that embarassingly often. Stupid programs that save my print settings…

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            But there were specific end-dates, in the near future (2 weeks to 2 months) named in there. If it was just “what it would cost” wouldn’t it be a more generic listing like “T plus 8 weeks”? Otherwise that document is instantly out of date, if it’s just hypothetical.

            1. CMart*

              As long as we’re speculating:

              If you were trying to calculate things in Excel it might have been easiest (especially if you’re someone in HR and not, say, Finance) to just make a table of dates beginning with today to figure out “T plus 8 weeks”.

              It’s what I would do, probably.

  25. CS Rep by Day, Writer by Night*

    Something like this happened at my current and soon to be past job (last day is this Friday). We found out the company that acquired us was closing our facility because someone printed a real estate brochure to sell the property on a communal printer. The person who found it literally walked around showing everyone, it was a disaster.

    1. HappySnoopy*

      I hope your last day is because you found something and not because of the closing timeline.

  26. Alex*

    It actually sounds to me like it is more likely this was a “let’s take a look and see if we can lay someone off” rather than “everyone is going to be laid off” document.

    At my workplace, the amount of notice they need to give you for a payoff is depending on how many years the employee has been working there. So, it would be reasonable, if a couple of layoffs were being considered, to take stock of how long a notice you’d need to give each employee, and how much severance/payout they would be receiving as a function of their salary/seniority/other individual factors (saved up vacation time, for example).

    At my workplace, when layoffs have happened, there has been a general “let’s see what we have here” moment with the managers before specific layoffs are decided…and sometimes that is just one or two people.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      But differences between individual people are relatively low (compared to the turnover/income/budget of the company) when it comes to “amount of severance to pay” etc.

      Generally a company wouldn’t get rid of the “lowest salary” people just on the basis of salary and projected severance (get rid of someone because severance is lower, like a multiple of salary / years worked etc) … because you still have to keep the people that will continue to contribute to your company (unless you are extremely short sighted!)

      I think “let’s see what we have here” is v different from actual end dates being specified.

  27. Spek*

    Sorry, but you don’t owe this company anything. If management is cavalier enough with this info that you can find it, that’s on them. If you have any doubts that it may not be legit, then you can keep it under wraps, but if it was me, I would at least let the people I have close relationships know, especially any of them that are on the 2 week timetable.

  28. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    I’m sorry to say it but it sounds like with this level of detail (specific end dates, actual salaries rather than “averaged” amounts) it does seem more likely than not (say 75%+) that this is a specific plan, rather than just a contingency plan or something hypothetical.

    Assuming Alison responded ‘instantly’ and you saw the document ‘last week’ (say, a week ago) that means that the projected end date for the earliest leaving employees would be around about a week from when you saw the document.

    Your manager (director) may well have no idea… or may just have a good poker-face! I don’t think there is anything to be gained from “confiding” in her – because either she still doesn’t know anything so can’t add anything, or she does but can’t tell you. I don’t see what information that would add.

    I think your instinct to start looking for alternative jobs is right. (I would be also in your position!)

    Do you need continuous employment (e.g. no safety net) or can you afford to take your time in a search if you were laid off and paid severance? Would you take “any job” (even with a pay cut / less seniority) for example (like in the linked letter)?

    Given the timelines involved I think this situation will work itself out organically. You apply to other jobs, get offered one, at which point the layoffs are now public knowledge… or you have an offer to take to your boss (and decide from their body language etc whether you believe it) what the boss offers for your future at this company.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Sorry, I should have said the projected end date would be a week from when you wrote the letter. Dates are hard.

  29. Hobbit*

    What an awkward situation! My boss has left private documents on the printer twice. I put the document under my boss’s door because she had left for the day. I just pretended that I didn’t see it. So awkward! Please send us an update!

  30. PMP*

    Ugh, I once (many years and a couple jobs ago) saw a document on the printer about MY performance issues…livid doesn’t begin to describe it.

    Anyway, is it bad my first thought is I would want to drop this on someone else’s desk and make it their problem and hope it becomes a big open thing so they would have to address it right away?

  31. Artemesia*

    You have been given the gift of a warning. I would go into full gear on a job search; you don’t have to take a job if things settle down where you are. BUT if this is the plan (and it sounds like it) then you want to get your job hunt started before your peers do — the first people out usually do better than those who hang back.

  32. ooo*

    Oof, I was working a terrible job about 15 years ago and specifically told there was no room in our very small company’s budget to give me even a tiny raise. I ultimately told my boss I needed to get out, but agreed to stick around through the end of the year (this was in mid-July) to train my newly hired replacement and help out, because our busy production and shipping season was about to ramp up for the holidays.

    Then our office manager printed a bunch of papers and left them on the printer, as was her habit. I went to pick up something I’d printed, flipped over her stack to get it, and saw my name on a sheet along with the rest of the employees’… and our salaries.

    My boss was paying my replacement $18,000 more than he was giving me.

    I’m sure some of it was just that my replacement was a better negotiator (I was young and not really even aware you could negotiate salary), and I wouldn’t have been too upset if it had been even $5,000 more than what I was getting. But $18,000 more, after being told there just wasn’t any more money? The next morning I came in and told him things had changed and that my last day would be the following week, so that I wouldn’t have to work on my birthday.

    1. juliebulie*

      I’m $18,000 worth of disgusted on your behalf, but I’m glad you found out the truth and didn’t have to work on your birthday.

      For the same reason, I too would be very interested to read such a document if it happened to fall into my hands. Maybe I wouldn’t hang it up in the break room, but I would certainly have some observations to share with my manager.

      1. ooo*

        Thanks! I didn’t even bother telling him I’d found it. He was the kind of person who would have made it my fault for reading a document I wasn’t supposed to see — anything but accepting any responsibility himself — and I had no interest in opening that can of worms.

        Two fun postscripts are that (1) right before I found the sheet in the printer, the office manager asked if I could handle talking to customers because my replacement wasn’t very good at it (at least 60 percent of the job was talking to customers), and (2) the company went under at some point in the years that followed.

      1. ooo*

        The weirdest thing was that I hadn’t even asked for a raise — he had approached me himself, to explain that he was paying an employee he’d hired after me $500 more per year than I was getting, and to say he wished he could make it even but there just wasn’t the money to do it right now, but that he would take care of it as soon as there was. Anyway, I hope his life is happy and peaceful and that his relationships with other employees work out better than ours did.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          You are much more generous than I am! I couldn’t hope for that for someone who treated me that way. The best I could do is not wish them harm.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Happened to several of us at an OldJob (great place to work otherwise – I left because of the inconvenient work schedule). There was a mass exodus, and the management made a list of all the replacements they needed to hire, and their starting salaries. In my case it was $20,000 more. The company had always made a big deal out of telling us that our salaries were “at market reference point”, turns out they were not after all?

      Oh, and I did not find mine on a printer. They made the list on a whiteboard in my boss’s office. He was apparently supposed to erase it, but forgot. Then he invited me into his office for a chat, and, with his back to the board, said, “we were here yesterday discussing how many replacements we need. Made a list” and gestured towards the board. I said something like “wow, that’s a lot higher than we make” and he turned all shades of pale and said “I was supposed to erase it last night, please don’t tell anybody!” (I only told two people and swore them to secrecy. They told everybody else, which was exactly my plan. I’d left the company by that time, but was hoping there’d be some salary adjustments coming out of this discovery for those that stayed. Nope, didn’t happen.)

    3. Kimmybear*

      Had a boss tell me I wouldn’t be promoted to a position in another department because I was more valuable where I was and I was already making more than that position paid. Except I was the person that cleaned out emails when people left so I saw the emails with the previous person’s offered salary to stay. It was a lot more than I was making.

      1. ooo*

        Lol, that was something your boss should probably have realized before bullshitting you. What did you do?

    4. MissDisplaced*

      That’s disgusting. And you tried to be nice by giving a long notice.

      Lesson: As an employee it does not pay to be nice!
      I have leaned this the hard way too.

  33. Hoisted by his own petard*

    If you leave before you are laid off you wont get the severance. Consider that…. it may not matter but it may be a good severance and might be worth waiting.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      True, the severance might be good chunk ‘o dollars. But you’d have to assess the job market in your area. I believe it’s still taking several months for people to find new employment… so it’s dicey.
      If on the other hand you’re desperate for some long time off, it pays to wait it out.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        For some of my ex-coworkers (and one hiring manager who interviewed me once and shared that information during the interview), the severance package included placement services (?? is this the correct term?) where the company pays for you to attend classes that assist with resume-writing, job search, etc. Don’t know how effective those are, but maybe it’d be worth the wait if OP’s company plans to offer one?

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Given the crappy resume-advice and interview-advice we read about here, I would not consider the classes much of a benefit.

      2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        I made that calculation, 18 years ago, and decided that 3 months’ pay as severance, if and only if we didn’t leave before the layoff date, was worth postponing my job search.

        Eighteen years and two weeks ago, the New York City economy tanked. I won’t say “nobody could have predicted” the 9/11 attacks, but I sure couldn’t have.

  34. MyAlterEgoIsTaller*

    This same thing happened to me – but the person who printed the list (one of the owners of the company) came looking for the document while I and another coworker were reading it. He apologized to us for having left it where we would find it, and he claimed that the company was just looking at various contingency plans and that no layoffs were in the works. Even if that had been true, the document was pretty damaging to our morale, because it ranked everybody. Neither my coworker nor I were slated to be in the first round of layoffs, but we were in the next-to-go category. We didn’t share the information with other coworkers, because it would have been obvious how they found out, since the owner knew we’d seen the list. About a month later the first round of people from the list were laid off, so I knew it was time to get out and I left before it was my turn.

  35. Clementine*

    I can’t see any advantage to sharing this printout information with anyone. If the OP’s boss does not know, then she is in an incredibly awkward position for no purpose. If she does know, it’s still extremely awkward. In either case, the boss cannot really say anything helpful.
    You have no idea if this is the final plan, or a draft plan. Yes, I’d start looking for work instantly, and I would feel terrible for everyone, but I would not disclose it further.

  36. Josie*

    Oh, I SO would have made a copy of that….I hope this person at least looked at when he/she was going to be on the chopping block, along with his/her severance pay.

  37. willow19*

    I once found a document that showed everyone’s hourly rate for a certain project. Imagine how happy I was to find that I am paid 40% less than someone else with the same title. Yeah, I did not get a lot of work done the rest of that day.

  38. the_scientist*

    Oh my god, OP, this is nightmare fuel. UGH. We just went through a mass layoff at my organization….we had some idea that layoffs were coming but the exact timing, and the numbers were a surprise to people at the manager level and below. It was so, so, stressful and destabilizing. Sending good thoughts your way today.

  39. Meh*

    It’s like manager Robert California’s list in ‘The Office’ (one of the later bad season episodes) where he leaves his notebook out, all the employees are divided into two columns/lists, but no one knows what it means and they all freak out. Turns out he put those he considered “Winners” one one side and “Losers” on the other. My least favorite character of all the seasons.

    1. seeveeargh*

      Yes, this post is very reminiscent of that episode!

      Pretty much all the seasons post- Michael Scott are terrible but I actually like Robert California!

      “Well, I will not be blackmailed by some ineffectual, privileged, effete, soft-penis’d, debutante. You want to start a street fight with me bring it on but you’re gonna be surprised by how ugly it gets, you don’t even know my real name- I’m the fucking lizard king!”

      1. it's me*

        Me too.

        “Why is Jim treating the magician poorly?”
        “If I’d known Jim and Pam would use this party as an excuse to abuse a magician—”
        Would you like a sex metaphor or an animal metaphor?
        Oh God, animal, please.
        When two animals are having sex—

  40. Junior Assistant Peon*

    The short timetable makes a job hunt a good idea. If you start applying now, it’s unlikely you’ll have an offer in hand before two months from today, so you’ll be able to change your mind if the information isn’t true. That said, it’s unlikely that this is some kind of contingency plan, so get the hell out ASAP! Quietly tip off your friends too.

    My last job hunt was partially motivated by me seeing a confidential list of everyone’s salaries, which confirmed my suspicions that I was being paid below market.

  41. Bunny*

    So every office I have worked in has kind of had an informal place where random printouts would go, I think if these were me I would put the document very conspicuously in that place and let the chips fall where they may.

    I think the danger is treating it differently than any other document that you may run across over the course of your job that was clearly not meant for you.

    Personally I would start a job search but I think it is always dangerous to start asking questions about activities in the workplace that are not unethical or illegal if you don’t understand their larger context.

  42. Bunny*

    Also I want to add a helpful piece of advice. If you are in a place where space and budget allow for a small multi-function laser printer, buy one, you are almost certainly in a place where you will want to print confidential personal documents.

    I understand the appeal of the free printer/scanner at work and I’m not going to moralize on the ethics of using it for personal use but at some point you are going to want/need to print/scan confidential or personal stuff that you really don’t want to explain if someone happens upon it at work.

    These days they are really not particularly expensive or large, I think we paid less than $100 for ours including an extra large capacity toner cartridge and it barely take up any space in our office.

  43. StaceyIzMe*

    I’d totally review this with my own best interests in mind. You came across very helpful data within the normal scope of performing your duties. A job search sounds like the perfect response. A “heads up” to your director and to those in your circle that you can trust to keep things somewhat confidential might also be warranted. While it’s understandable that businesses have to make decisions with certain outcomes in view, it’s beyond reasonable not to expect you to make use of “found” intelligence, especially where real consequences such as layoff are anticipated.
    A part of me cannot help but wonder if the information was left as an ostensible “oops” that was designed by the “leaver” to get the word out to at least a portion of those likely to be effected by the impending layoffs?

  44. Mazarin*

    We have an ongoing ‘what-if’ spreadsheet showing all workers entitlements if we closed tomorrow. Mind you, it’s not really a secret that the business is doing poorly- but it would still freak out people if I accidentally printed my what-if and left it on the printer. What-ifs like that are a real part of business financial management- trading while insolvent is a crime, and also not nice to your employees. There is a chance this is real, and also a chance it is not.

  45. MsSolo*

    So, I’d completely continue on the assumption the document you saw was live and genuine, but I do want to throw into the ring that one of the annual exercises we have to do in my team within our organisation is Redundancy Liability, where we have to provide our funder with a breakdown of how much the redundancy costs would be if they yanked the funding – a breakdown of every person employed under the project, including how long they’ve worked for the organisation and what their notice periods are (we’re in the UK, so it’s not at will – you have to give a certain amount of notice if you’re making someone redundant that’s spelled out in their contract and can vary with a number of factors) and other things that factor into their personal redundancy entitlements. We hate doing it because it means handling a lot of personal data for hundreds of individuals and some horribly fiddly calculations (if Jane works 3 days a week now but worked 5 days a week when she started on the project two years ago, has a two month notice period and is nearing retirement, how much do we need to have in the pot for her compared with Bob, who’s worked 5 days a week on the project for six years and for other parts of the organisation for five before that and only has a two week notice period but is currently on sabbatical).

    Obviously, with the data involved it’d be a massive data breach to leave it hanging around the printer, so it’d absolutely want feeding back up the chain if someone came across it regardless. You know your organisation, and whether they’re likely to be conducting these sorts of exercises – absolutely trust your gut on this one! – but I wanted to throw in a scenario where this information might be available as a sign of a healthy organisation doing its due diligence, in case anyone else come across it in their own workplace with additional information that makes mass layoffs the less likely answer.

    1. MsSolo*

      Oh god, I’ve summoned it. ::disappears under a mound of redundancy calculation spreadsheets::

      (actually, doing this now, it really sounds exactly like the spreadsheet LW saw – of course, we do it as an annual xercise so we know how much we need in the redundancy pot, but I imagine if we were making all of these people redundant the spreadsheets would look very much the same)

  46. Professor Ronny*

    Many years ago, I worked for a Fortune 100 company that was going through a large layoff. There were rumors going around but nothing specific. One of the lower level employees would occasionally create his own, made up, new org chart and “accidentally” leave it in the copier.

  47. lnelson in Tysons*

    It never ceases to amaze me how bad management can be at keeping stuff like this under wraps.
    I would go to the manager and let him/her know that this was out in the open and for awhile as well. Leave it at that, unless this opens a dialogue.
    Two examples from a previous place on reorg’s and lay-offs that were handled badly.
    1)The Director of Finance found out that her position was going to be relocated to another city when she was working on the financial forecasting and saw her position in another city. When she brought this up with her boss, he seemed to think that it wasn’t important to actually let her know. Seriously.
    2)A SVP who tended to yell was yelling about upcoming lay-offs, apparently he didn’t check if anyone was actually in the office at this time. The rumor mill went into overdrive fast on that one. Everyone knew except for who was actually going. Of course the SVP who was the leak of the information was never scolded for his part in letting the news out.

  48. Laura H.*

    This isn’t the finder’s info to share. And while it can’t be unseen, it now is a matter of integrity. I wouldn’t want to start an unnecessary panic. But if it’s at the I shouldn’t be seeing this level, it becomes my responsibility to immediately inform someone up the chain that I found the info in the printer, and did this with it (hid, placed elsewhere, shredded/ or another way to ensure no one else would accidentally happen upon it without a major effort). It may not be my innate responsibility to keep stuff confidential, but when I stumble on it, I am at the very least ethically required to inform and assist in taking the necessary measures.

    While not completely beholden to the company, OP is under no moral obligation to tell coworkers. Because it could be absolutely nothing- and even if it’s not, the info isn’t OP’s to disseminate (or withhold) as they please.

    While that may seem like saving one’s own skin, it’s not that simple. While a lot of factors remain unknown, I feel that OP should preserve their integrity- and while by extension that DOES preserve their own job, it also eases the feeling of being caught between a rock and a hard place. Ethics may not change, but application of them certainly does to a point.

  49. A*

    I had no idea this was so common–I left my old job because I was asked to print a budget document that had my projected end date on it, and I was the only one on the list with an end date. Any time I print from excel I click on and glance at each worksheet to make sure it will print correctly, and when it’s confidential budget stuff I’m careful not to look too hard, but of course my eyes landed on that.

    I was unhappy at the job anyway so it just ramped up my search a bit. Actually ended up being offered a promotion two days before also being offered my dream job at another, much better company. Still not sure exactly what was going on there, whether my end date referred to the promotion date or whether people just weren’t talking to each other (it really could’ve been either, at that place) and I’m pretty glad I didn’t stick around to find out.

    (Especially given that we’d had mass layoffs/”restructuring” about a month after I started–I didn’t trust them at all. That company was a mess. Accidentally sharing an employee’s future layoff date with the employee was totally in character for them.)

    I’ll also note that if I had liked the job or trusted my employers, I might’ve asked what was going on, especially if it wasn’t just me, so I think the advice here is good. Still, sometimes a heads up is shocking but overall for the best.

  50. I Take A Whole Donut*

    Re swearing: As a new attorney, 25 year old woman working with all male partners and only one other non-support staff woman, and in a smallish town, I got this ALL the time. They’d all cuss like sailors and say “Oh, sorry (name)” every time.

    I cured it by learning to swear a LOT at work. I also never ever brought it baked goods at that job, or offered to do anything marginally support-staff like in nature, and refused to attend anything the partners’ wives put on (like a baby shower for one of the wives, ugh). It is stupid, but that was what it took to make sure I was classed as “lawyer” and not “lady” in their heads.

    When I went into government practice several years later it was really hard to break that habit, but that was also doable once my office culture would have been horrified by the f bombs.

  51. TardyTardis*

    I found someone’s complete tax return once, returned it with the blank side up, with gestures of “I know noTHINK!”, cf Sgt. Schultz of Hogan’s Heroes, and we both pretended that I hadn’t skimmed thru it anyway.

Comments are closed.